LEOMINSTER — A special presentation at the recent Bands in the Round concert is helping to ensure the musical legacy of Steve Ciccolini lives on.
Family and friends of the late talented musician gathered at the April 13 program at Samoset Middle School to present Steve Ciccolini Memorial Scholarship Fund donations to the music programs of three city schools: $10,000 to Leominster High School, $3,000 to Sky View Middle School, and $2,000 to Samoset. In addition, $10,000 was donated to St. Anna School earlier that week.
Lifelong city resident Steve Ciccolini, who was affectionately called “Chic,” died in March of 2021, one of the victims of the COVID-19 pandemic. After he died, one of his best friends Sharon Sambito and his family were inspired to start a fund in honor of the well-known and talented saxophone player and professional musician whose impressive musical career spanned five decades.
“My dad would be over the moon,” Ciccolini’s son Chris Ciccolini shared at the concert of the generous gifts, adding that his father brought him to jazz clubs when he was growing up.
He was joined by others who were also part of presenting checks to the band directors of each school, including several family members and Sambito, who helps facilitate the memorial fund set up by the Community Foundation of North Central Massachusetts.
“What a fantastic night,” Steve’s brother Mike Ciccolini said to the audience gathered for the concert. “Steve touched many lives through his music and infectious personality.”
He went on to say Steve “was impressed” with the school music programs and Mayor Dean Mazzarella, who went to school with the talented musician, stated Steve, “would be beside himself to see this music program tonight.”
Sambito knew Steve for most of her adult life. They bonded over their Italian heritage and love of all things Italian, so much so that they went on trips to Italy together along with other friends.
“Our mission through this memorial fund is to continue to spread Steve’s love and passion for music by supporting local and regional music programs and assisting young, dedicated musicians through financial support of their music education,” Sambito conveyed. “The gifts to both Leominster’s and St. Anna’s music programs represents a way for his legacy to live on in the community that he dearly loved.”
Bands in the Round is an annual event that shines a light on the city public school bands, a chance for the band teachers and musicians to showcase their talents. Leominster High School Band Director Robert Bergeron joked about the concert being held on “the hottest day of the year so far” and noted that they have probably grown out of having it at Samoset due to the large number of people it attracts — “and that’s a fantastic thing.”
New Samoset Band Director Sam Svare, who is also the Assistant Director of the LHS Marching Blue Devils alongside Bergeron as director, kicked off the program with a performance by the middle school band, “Lost Woods Fantasy.” Next up was Skyview with two energetic songs led by Band Director Zavier Cosme, “Vuelo” and “Byzantine Dances.”
Bergeron directed the LHS Jazz Band’s three numbers – “Beg, Borrow, and Steal,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” and “Big Noise from Winnetka.” Throughout the evening and in between songs he spoke about the bands and the dedicated and talented student musicians who play in them.
He gave a shout out to Evan Zumwalt, who plays in and is the equipment manager for the high school band, quipping that he calls the freshman “my boss.”
“Everything you see here is because of this man’s leadership,” Bergeron said of Zumwalt, adding that many other students as well as parents help immensely with the band programs.
“All our musicians work hard, these guys are work horses,” Bergeron articulated.
During the changeover to the LHS Jazz Band, a young lady from the audience who was there with her mom to watch her two siblings perform came up front and announced she was going to sing a song that she would make up as she went along. Bergeron willingly handed over the mic to 8-year-old Ally Woodland, who sang with such a soulful voice well beyond her years that it surprised everyone, including the band director — so much that you could hear a pin drop.
Bergeron mentioned “the third band under my direction that is not here,” the LHS Marching Blue Devils.
“Your eardrums will thank me,” he joked about the sheer volume and energy the award-winning marching band ensemble brings to every performance.
He stated that it’s “not too late to join” the marching band, which is open to students who will be entering seventh grade in the fall through seniors. The first rehearsal is coming up on April 25 in the LHS band room and Bergeron also made a plug for the Jazz Band’s upcoming show on April 27 at 7 p.m. at Leominster City Hall.
The LHS Concert Band was up next with three songs: “Fanfare for a New Age,” “Canto,” and “The Incredibles,” a tribute to the band’s trip to Disney World earlier this year.
The majority of those musicians raised their hand when Bergeron asked who had attended Samoset or Sky View, including himself. As such, he likened the annual Bands in the Round concert to a “homecoming” of sorts and finished out the evening with an all-schools combined ensemble performance, “Furioso.”
The donation checks were presented to each of the band directors before the final number. Following the program, Bergeron said that although he never knew Steve Ciccolini personally, “it is very clear to see the impact he brought to this community through his love of music.”
“It is truly an honor to be able to carry that legacy on,” the band director expressed. “The music program in Leominster is growing year to year, and in different ways too. This money will be put to great use for our programs. At the high school, we plan make some serious upgrades with a new drum set, a beautiful new marimba, and some other tools we need for this craft, all thanks to the legacy of Steve.”